Making Amends is More than Just an Apology

Making Amends is More than Just an Apology

Find out the difference between an apology and making amends – and how to properly make amends in addiction recovery.

No one is perfect. We, as humans, are all inevitably bound to make mistakes throughout our lives. And these stumbling blocks and errors in judgement often help to mould us. Our characters are built from our experiences both good and bad, and there is no shame in admitting when we are wrong.

Making amends is a part of life and it takes a strong person to own up to their mistakes. However, wrongdoings as a result of alcohol or drug addiction cannot be forgiven with a simple “I’m sorry”. Addiction recovery is a long and hard road, as addiction has the ability to warp peoples’ morals, and leave behind a trail of torn relationships. Making amends in recovery is a necessary process for any addict, but it is important to know how and why you need to do it.

What is the Difference between Making an Apology and Making Amends?

There is actually a huge difference between making amends with someone and merely giving them an apology. While a sincere apology is a crucial part of making amends, an apology alone is simply not enough to undo the irreversible pain and heartache that one’s addiction (or actions during addiction) may have caused.

Making amends, however, is a way for an addict to work toward restoring goodwill as much as they can. This can be done in a direct way, like replacing an item that you broke; or in an indirect, symbolic way, such as taking part in volunteer work. The most important part of making amends is to ensure you undertake a complete change in your behaviour, and a whole new approach to how you live life.

What are the Types of Amends?

There are three different ways in which you can make amends, which are described below:

  1. Direct Amends This involves taking personal responsibility for your actions and confronting the person who you would like to reconcile with. This takes a lot of courage, as you will need to discuss openly and honestly the reasons for your actions, and try together to find a solution as to how you can compensate this person.For example, if you had stolen money from a person, you would start by giving it back. You must try to the best of your abilities to replace, repair or re-reimburse the person you hurt, as well as understand that much of the damage caused by your addiction may not be physically possible to reverse.
  2. Indirect Amends These are ways that you will be able to repair damage that cannot be reversed or undone. In cases like these, you would work towards redemption by selfless acts, or ‘indirect amends’.For example, if you injured someone else in a bike accident while intoxicated, you could volunteer at a handicapped school, or register to become an organ donor.
  3. Living Amends Living amends is the best way to show others (as well as yourself) that you have changed to become a better person than you used to be. This requires a genuine lifestyle change, and making a life-long promise to yourself and those that you have hurt that you will discard your previous destructive behaviour.

How do You Make Amends?

When making amends, a well thought out strategy is crucial. So you will need to prepare your approach step-by-step in the following way:

Step One: Evaluate the extent of your wrongdoings. In order to obtain a proper perspective of your mistakes, you will need to step out of your comfort zone and try to see your actions from the angle of the person affected. Developing empathy will help you to understand how you have wronged that person, why it hurt them, and how you might be able to make it better.

Step Two: Give them a carefully worded apology. In order for your apology to work, it will need to be sincere and relate directly to the basis of the matter. You must address the mistake itself to show the person that you understand what you did was wrong.

You must also address how it affected the person, and emphasise that you do understand why they are upset with you. Be sure to express how much you value your relationship with them, and tell them you do not want to lose it. Hold yourself accountable, and do not allow yourself to deflect the blame or make excuses for your actions.

Step three: Suggest ways to rebuild and repair your relationship. Damage control takes time, and trust has to be earned, but slowly the right actions and activities will help to restore their faith in you. Organising quality time with this person is also a great way to show how much they mean to you.

Step Four: Avoid making the same mistakes over again. By re-examining your mistakes, you will be able to uncover the reasons why you made them – and that will help to keep you from repeating them. If you find that you are prone to making these mistakes when you are surrounded by certain people, consider changing the company you keep.

Why is it Important to Make Amends?

When dealing with addiction, making amends is a vital part of personal growth and healing – not only for you, but also for the people you have hurt.

Addiction can often destroy friendships, ruin work relationships and tear families apart. By making amends, you will have a chance to reconnect with people who you have negatively affected or hurt as a result of your addiction.  But it is not going to be easy. You may feel vulnerable or anxious, or you may be afraid of rejection from those who you are trying to make up with. The benefits of amends are numerous, however, and are worth fighting for.

Reconciliation is a key step toward recovery, and if you choose not to make amends with the people you have wronged, you will be cutting yourself off from future opportunities. By choosing to be honest and humble when addressing your mistakes, the doors leading towards your recovery will open a little bit wider, and a sense of closure and peace will begin to grow inside you. So keep watering your inner garden – recovery is a process. Untangle the weeds one day at a time, make amends, and you will definitely reap the benefits.

If you are unsure of how to make amends with those that you have hurt, addiction treatment centres can offer valuable addiction and relapse counselling, including advice on how to go about making amends.